The University of Rhode Island Indian Student Association (ISA) presented Diwali 2015: A Festival of Lights that showcased energetic dances and talent-filled performances this past Saturday.
This year marks over a decade of the event being hosted at URI and received its highest number of sponsorship from student organizations. It brought in a record attendance of roughly 400 people, which completely filled the Memorial Union Ballroom.
The event began with the traditional lamp lighting by this year’s Chief Guest, President Dooley. He spoke on the devastating attacks that took place earlier in the week in Paris and in Beirut and how “in times of severe loss and pain it is important we have events, like Diwali, so that we can come together as a community.”
The highly-anticipated celebration began with a classical dance performance that fused contemporary dance steps with Sri Lankan and Southeast Indian elements. Next, Vinnie Joyce sang “Punjab Paddy” by Gaelic Storm, a song that tells the story of an Irish man who finds his nirvana in India and vows to never come home. This performance was followed by an energetic Bollywood dance that featured mesmerizing moves and upbeat music. Afterwards, in true multicultural fashion, ISA was joined by the Hillel Center, who performed a traditional Israeli dance. The girls of ISA were next to perform “a sizzling Bollywood dance” as introduced by co-Master of Ceremonies, Mahad Jamil, which truly captivated the audience.
Popular New York fashion designer, InfamousSingh, took the stage and shared with the audience his heartfelt and courageous story of how he has moved past his speech disorder and cultivated a brand of his own where he encourages others to answer questions of who they are and what they want. InfamousSingh said that, “in light of Paris attacks, a man on the bus called me a terrorist, but I’m not a terrorist, I am human.”
Described by the agenda as “super energetic”, the next performance was a Bhangra dance that consisted of traditional Punjab and Rahjabi dances with modern elements. Nupur Sardana and Prateek Kakar, two of the performers in the Bhangra dance, said it was meant to “represent our culture, happiness, liveliness, and joy.”
The Center for Nonviolence and Peace Studies performed “A Song About Peace” and were joined by Project 401, a Providence breakdance group to highlight their theme of good vibes and peaceful harmony.
In the grand finale, both the girls and boys’ dance groups came together and were joined by the co-Masters of Ceremonies to perform a “fantastic Bollywood number.” Dooley gave his chief guest speech and shared his experience of the evening. He was very pleased to be this year’s chief guest and thoroughly enjoyed the evening; this was his first time attending the event and said it came highly recommended by his niece who called it “one of the best cultural events URI offers.”
“All of the participants were so talented, it made the night very enjoyable,” Dooley said. “Events like this demonstrate how much URI truly values the mix of cultures we have here.” He explained how everyone who attends URI has something in common because they’re all here to learn, and he said it’s nice to share and celebrate cultures with one another.
Before the evening came to a close, the audience was invited to receive free henna tattoos by Henna Rain from Providence and enjoyed the culturally authentic cuisine catered by Maharaja in Narragansett.
Julie Cuddigan, a new addition to ISA, was featured heavily, dancing in several performances and even singing vocals for Equinox. Julie spent time choreographing for many of the dances and said, “everyone’s hard work definitely paid off, we all grew very close with one another, and it was a great experience learning more about the culture.”
It was this teamwork and dedication from everyone that led to the event’s success. “Most of our energy and excitement came from cheering for each other,” one of the performers, Bhumi Patel, said.
Sundaram Patel, a performer in the event and computer engineering major, recalled how everyone would have a long day of classes and work and then have to come to practice. A lot of the dancers had the same sentiment, saying after a stressful day they came to long rehearsals, sometimes lasting five hours to get everything perfect. Dhara Patel credited the long hours spent choreographing and rehearsing for the success of the event, saying “we’re all very proud of each other. It was a lot of work getting everything together but it turned out really well.”